In our death-and-grief-avoidant culture, it can be difficult for people to grapple with any kind of loss, let alone pregnancy loss. I know firsthand.
According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in five pregnancies end in a miscarriage. While it can be reassuring to know that you aren’t alone, it doesn’t change what’s happened or make the pain any easier to take. Losing a pregnancy, whether at six weeks or almost into the second trimester, whether your first pregnancy or your fifth, whether or not you even knew you were pregnant, can be one of the most challenging things a woman experiences in her lifetime. Even well-meaning advice from friends and family can come off as awkward or callous. Here are some of the best pieces of advice I received, or wish I had received, in the weeks after I miscarried.
This Is Not Your Fault
When something bad happens, it’s incredibly common for us to play back every action we took leading up to the event and wonder what would have happened if we had done something differently.
In my case, I had no idea I was pregnant. I had taken a pregnancy test a few weeks earlier that came back negative, so I chalked my late period up to an irregular cycle. When the miscarriage happened, I spent hours wondering if I could have prevented it. If I had only taken another pregnancy test...if I hadn’t had so much coffee...if I hadn’t gotten into that car accident…The guilt can so easily spiral into a never-ending pit of despair.
If like me, you didn’t know you were pregnant, you can’t blame yourself for doing something that increases your risk factors.
Listen, friend. Nothing you did caused this, and you couldn’t have done anything to prevent this. If like me, you didn’t know you were pregnant, you can’t blame yourself for doing something that increases your risk factors. You couldn’t have known. Even if you knew you were pregnant, even if you did everything right like the perfect Pinterest mama, there is always a chance of losing your baby. The truth is, the vast majority of miscarriages happen because the fetus wasn’t developing normally, and oftentimes even your doctor might not be able to tell you why it happened. Regardless, this is not your fault.
You Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of
Your emotions are probably all over the place right now. Between the psychological shock of losing your baby and the rapid hormonal changes going on in your body, it’s totally normal to feel conflicting emotions: fear, anger, sadness, isolation, or numbness. You might feel like you’ve been robbed, violated, or you may even feel a strange sense of relief.
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s important to recognize those emotions as valid and not throw yourself into the deep void of shame. Let yourself feel your feelings, or the lack thereof. You aren't a monster if you don’t react the way others think you should. You aren’t less of a woman because your emotions don’t fit what you think loss should look like. Everyone’s brain processes trauma differently, which leads me to my next point:
Everyone Grieves Differently
If you look around on the internet, you’ll find countless tangible ways that women have grieved and/or honored their miscarriages—shadow boxes, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, planting trees or flowers, even memorial tattoos. Some women name their lost babies, some don’t. You may want to acknowledge your baby’s due date or the anniversary of the miscarriage in some way.
How you physically recognize your grief over the loss of your baby is totally up to you, and that includes the choice to not have a physical reminder.
On the other hand, some or all of these things may seem painful or disingenuous to you. Even if the people around you recommend doing something to remember your child, you don’t have to do anything to memorialize your miscarriage that makes you feel uncomfortable. How you physically recognize your grief over the loss of your baby is totally up to you, and that includes the choice to not have a physical reminder.
Go See Your Doctor
One of the first things you need to do after you’ve miscarried (or suspect you might be miscarrying) is visit your doctor. You might be reluctant to go to the doctor because you may not want to acknowledge that this is happening to you at all. Here’s the thing—medical attention is vital to make sure that you don’t develop a uterine infection or experience any other complications.
If you haven’t miscarried, but are experiencing abnormal symptoms like bleeding or pain, your doctor will be able to help you determine whether you’re miscarrying or if there’s another cause for your symptoms. Either way, seeing your Ob/Gyn is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself right now.
Talk to Your Partner
Just like with anything else, spouses are going to have different reactions to pregnancy loss. You need to talk with your husband about how you’re feeling so that he can better support you. Just don’t forget that he is also going to be grieving this loss. How he processes your miscarriage may look totally different from how you react, and that’s okay. My husband spent several days in shock and denial because he couldn’t process the idea that I was pregnant in the first place, let alone that I had miscarried.
Sometimes some of the deepest healing comes from exposing the ugliest parts of your grief to your partner and letting him show the same to you.
His initial reaction really hurt me, because I felt like he thought I was acting crazy or making a big deal out of nothing. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I sat down with him and explained how his reaction made me feel (and listened to him explain how he was feeling and why he reacted the way he did), that I felt like he understood how the miscarriage was affecting me and our marriage. Sometimes some of the deepest healing comes from exposing the ugliest parts of your grief to your partner and letting him show the same to you.
Who You Tell Is Your Decision (but Tell Someone)
In the age of social media, it can be incredibly difficult to share even our smallest struggles, let alone anything as scary as miscarriage. You might find that you don’t want to talk to anyone at all. I sure didn’t! While you don’t have to talk to anyone that you don’t feel safe discussing deeply personal parts of your life with, you need to talk to someone. Identify safe, empathetic women among your family and friends. Look at your social circles. Is there anyone you know who’s previously shared about a miscarriage? Maybe someone from your church or a mom’s group? If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you already know, you can always look into pregnancy loss support groups in your area, or seek the help of a licensed counselor or therapist.
Most major cities have nonprofits that specifically work with families dealing with infant or pregnancy loss. Regardless of who you decide to talk to, talking to someone is a critical part of the healing process. You might find empathy and understanding in places you never expected.